Photo Source: La Belle Brocante. Alwen Rambo's original artwork.
Each Saturday I focus on a different artist that I admire. From potters to painters, chefs to collectors, seamstress to songwriters, lifestyle to lovers... anyone who set the paintbrush, pastry brush, hands and heart on fire to create.
Those who inspire art to flow where it may.
Today I would like to intoduce Belle Brocante, Alwen Rambo, a collector of French ephemera.
Above shadow box: Alwen describes it, "Custom open-front shadow boxes. Reproduction and original vintage imagery. 1800s medicine vials and corkscrews. Finished with turned wooden feet (not shown)."
Alwen describes how she started to collect French ephemera,
"La Belle Brocante was born of carbonation ... sitting in front of a cafe in Anduze, France watching the bubbles rise to the surface of the glasses, watching the world pass by. Musing on the word Quincaillerie, and the fact that it would probably be challenging for English speakers to get their tongues around, though it was the essence of what we wanted to do. A mixture of old treasures, old ruins, snippets of life in the beautiful south."
Alwen describes her shadowbox (above): "10" x 20" stretched canvas. Vintage photographs and paper ephemera. Embellishments: brass finials, dip pen, monopoly car, shell buttons, optometrist lens, clock hand, charlotta doll, French box lid, fossil, human tooth, enamel pocket watch face. A mosaic of thoughts and stories."
I love the way Alwen describes her photos and artwork on her blog,
"Teeny tiny ink bottles to add a little dose of French sweetness to your studio decor." Alwen mixes snippet of poetry, and fact, "Bottles are approximately 2.5" tall and are for decorative purposes only ... after decades of opening and closing and waiting to write that fateful love letter, the ink has dried up in despair."
"My life via a vintage telescope lens." I love how Alwen describes her life as a collector in this quote and photo.
I thought I had the peeling, rusty, chipped, faded, dusty French brocante bug badly... until I discovered Alwen's blog. Alwen makes my collection of bugs look like a hiccup.
Last week when I asked what do you collect I was giggling inside thinking of Alwen and her mass collection of brocante bugs.
I admired too, that my cousin and another reader, who do not know each other, both said they collected their cat's whiskers. I am sure Alwen smiled reading that too.
Collecting what we love, what inspires us to live an artistic life.
Be it objects, or memories, or most likely a collection of those things and thoughts that make a whole.
"The teeny tiny things that accumulate in my studio:
Vials of watch parts. Mourning pins. Wee carnivorous teeth. Clock hands. Gem sized photographs from early photobooths. Small bones. Military buttons from forgotten conflicts.
Bits and pieces of a creative life."
"Beautifully worn handwritten mailing labels. Glued to small wooden boxes that were used to post gold and other valuables, the boxes were then wrapped in twine and secured with wax seals."
Alwen comes to France, in search of those bits and pieces that are often overlooked, she said,
"...Early morning brocante in the Super U parking lot. Bits of magic unceremoniously displayed on rickety tables and blankets laid out on the ground. Old books and piles of engravings. Zinc basins. Enamel clock faces and hand blown wine bottles. Wooden crates of postcards and letters and other ephemera. And at the back, a jumble of handmade lace, knotted and tumbled together. In amongst the larger pieces were cards with lengths of the sweetest lace pinned to them. Fine as cobwebs, and not much more expensive."
and her humor, "Because really, when does pink ever get a mention?"
Found at the brocante, Alwen is someone who knows the affection that the brocante bug gives, she gets the passion, she has the artistic eye that sees the world as beautifully old and worn in perfection,
"An enormous stack of antique documents from Paris and its environs....mostly 1700s....some 1800s....some 1600s....incredible wax seals....hand drawn maps....little attachments stitched on with fine thread....steel pins holding pages together....the most heavenly aroma, that mixture of cedar and tobacco that makes me swoon every time....beautiful watermarks....parchment so fine it is transparent....ragged edges....creases and stains....the foxiest foxing...."
Description of Alwen's shadow box: "Studio Collage. 23" x 47". Antique French botanicals. Ooooold French script. Cabinet card. Wooden Loto markers. Clock faces."
Description of Alwen's Shadow Box:
"Elements being arranged and rearranged, added and subtracted, and moved once again:
- French business letter, 1904
- Britains 3-legged cow (originally 4)
- Biblia Sacra, 1829
- Pair of German porcelain legs, 1890
- Vintage French photo booth images"
Wouldn't Alwen's collections, musings, shadow boxes make a BEAUTIFUL BOOK!!!!!!!!
Description of Alwen's Shadow box:
"6" x 8" wooden box collage. Vintage papers, early French photos, Muybridge imagery, bone/ebony domino, vintage copper upholstery nails."
"I find it more and more difficult to distinguish between art and collecting. Shadow boxes line the walls and the elements within them move fluidly from one to the next, making room for new arrivals, new stories. Things are not fixed in the sense that would traditionally make them become art pieces, but I think they serve much the same purpose. (Perhaps I'm an unrequited interior designer?) With collage I am a little more sure-footed. The building blocks of paper, paint, and charcoal, familiar elements telling new stories. The common thread is the story, the narrative that unfolds through alignment and juxtaposition, heartache and humour."
All text quotations are from Alwen.